by Jon Burgess – 12/30/15
Note to readers. This story is 1,900 words on marketing, so we have added “+Expand” links within sections, so you can skim, or expand the sections to find more content. Have a great 2016! – Jon
Businesses, housing prices, the stock market all run in cycles. Marketing runs in cycles too. And in 2015, not too much changed from 2014, but at the same time we believe we have entered into a period where the cycle has looped back to a traditional marketing approach. Many of the new words or jargon many be fresh, but we are seeing the same traditional, proven marketing tactics. 
For two decades, digital marketers and businesses have been chasing change: always trying new things, cool ideas, thinking that bleeding edge technology may be the answer. But, in the last few years, the sparkling new ideas have slowed their growth. Digital marketing has calmed, and the Internet storm has passed.
Seems simple, maybe too simple for most marketers and business owners to swallow, so we’ll layout the trends.
- Google has hit a “sweet spot”
- Mobile has matured, but AMP is coming
Google’s Sweet Spot
Google has settled into Autopilot
Google has been working to make every search better and they will continue. Their algorithm has changed regularly to improve all aspects of search results. Results are getting “scary-good” if you ask me, and Google Search has come to a sort of maturity level.
Google will continue to get better at finding one thing; winners. What are winners? Those who prove that they are satisfying their users’ needs.
Google has in some ways placed this winner’s idea into autopilot, quite literally. Announced a few months ago, Google released RankBrain into their search algorithm. “The company is now relying on the power of an artificial intelligence system known as RankBrain to monitor its search results, make progress where necessary.” Some reports have it as the third highest weighted attribute.
Why Artificial Intelligence? Well Googlers were tired of writing code, so they wrote code that basically writes itself. This is the same AI that powers Google’s driverless cars. So, if you can safely drive a car on autopilot to Grandma’s house without a wolf eating you, it is probably able to make better search decisions along your web journey as well.
I don’t see Google making too many major changes for awhile. They will however continue to refine and improve results. Thus, they have hit a sort of sweet spot.
What do we do now? We ALL need to continue to build content for our marketing channels. . And if we do that, we should see search growth.
We are mobile
Mobile has made its stamp on society
Mobile has matured. Yes, we are all mobile. Phones and tablets have now become tools that are so powerful, when we misplace them, our heart rate literally goes up.
Mobile will continue to improve in 2016 and beyond, but it has pretty much figured out the niche it fills. Mobile has not replaced computers, so the desktop has survived, but when we are on the go, or want little bits of information, we go mobile. 
Mobile search results are so powerful they have come to your desktop. Berry Schwartz reported, “Google is now customizing and localizing your desktop search results based on where you’ve taken your mobile device.”  When looking at Google Chrome, and you are logged into your user profile in Google, you now have an opportunity for Google to know exactly where you are sitting. That means local search is still an important place to emplace your SEO and brand. When sitting at my office, I get this on the bottom of Google “Redlands, CA – From your phone.” 
For 2016, you should be concerned about AMP. AMP is Accelerated Mobile Pages, and Google has already announced that it will be favoring websites that are not only mobile optimized, but now AMPed.
“Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project is an open source initiative that embodies the vision that publishers can create mobile optimized content once and have it load instantly everywhere.” 
Mobile optimized websites are NOT optional. They are a must.
AMP is not an option. It is a must.
Build more and grow
I’m not sure how I can be more specific, but you need to build. No more static, boring, old html websites. No more outdated Facebook or Twitter accounts. You need some power in your marketing plan, and without adding content, you are not powering growth.
I said above that there would be some clear sailing for marketers, which there is, but I didn’t mention that all businesses are actually sailing up a river. If you are to sail up the Mississippi or the Nile, you need power.
Harnessing the power is done by building more content than your competitors. More content will suck the power from your competitors while also increasing your own velocity. At HubSpot, “about 90% of the leads generated every month come from blog posts that were published in previous months.” 
Recipe for building content for 2016.
- Make sure you out-build your competition.
- Write. We are asking all clients to add 4 pages a month, or 1 post a week.
- Automate your Social Media accounts, so they look fresh, and Google sees that you are active.
- Be creative and add fun content like videos or real life photos.
Don’t Crash your SEO
Warning Story from 2015
Corporate changes caused us to part ways with a great client after more than a decade of working together. We stood back, a bit horrified to be honest, as they moved the site to a new host, built new pages, deleted 95% of the old pages and changed the main domain in the process. They haven’t added a page since.
Today, 6 months later, they have lost 50+% of traffic and lost 68% of organic traffic.
They crashed their SEO. Read this full post on what crashing your SEO might look like. 
Build a Smarketing Funnel
Marketing automation is here. We use some great tools and products to increase our productivity and connect our marketing and sales plans. Tracking, creating, following, socializing, selling, communicating, are all now easier to execute. Marketing is now 100% accountable online, which means you can efficiently grow prospects, leads, and customers.
Marketing automation has created the ultimate funnel. Now marketing can find and hand leads to sales teams. Customers can be nurtured and cross-sold. Funnels make your process better.
This also means your competitors can also make funnels. Need a funnel plan for 2016, drop us a note?
In 2016, you must make sure you have built funnels online, and built your operations to support both your marketing and sales teams. In 2016 you need to become a Smarketing company, read more from our Smarketing post. 
E-A-T: Expert, Authoritative, Thrusted
I literally jumped for joy when I read this, E-A-T. For more than a few years I have been telling my clients, my classes at the University of Redlands, my attendees at speeches, that all Google cares about is expert, authoritative and transparent content.
Google released part of the recipe for Quality in its “Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.” This was the super secret sauce to how Google defined and executed quality search results. E-A-T was referenced more than 80 times in the 160 page quality document. On page 20, E-A-T is defined as “a High Level of Expertise/Authoritativeness/Trustworthiness (E-A-T).”  I had said transparent, they used trustworthy. I was pretty close.
What does this mean to you?
- I believe it is the death of old SEO. You can no longer create content for the keyword. Instead you need to be an expert about the topic. “High quality pages and websites need enough expertise to be authoritative and trustworthy on their topic.” 
- You need to be an Authority. You need others to tell the world that you are important, good at what you do and have expertise. Links, press releases, news stories and social media all help you gather authority.
Your organization’s content must lead your competitors. You must be willing to give some glimpses into why you are actually better than they are. Why you win business when competing head to head.
Once you accept that you need to act like a leader, then you must “think about the topic of the page. What kind of expertise is required for the page to achieve its purpose well? The standard for expertise depends on the topic of the page.”
Focus on Reputation
We used to care about the BBB (Better Business Bureau). That has died.
We used to use the Yellow Pages, printed newspapers. They are both dead.
We used to, and still do give “word of mouth” advice to our friends. The big change is now you can give your “word of mouth” advice to the public.
Many of our clients have worried about horrible reviews on places like Yelp, Rip-off Report, forums, social media. YOU should worry.
Reputation is obviously part of Google’s E-A-T, but it goes beyond the web, right to the cash register. Bad reputations will simply put you out of business. We all need to be thinking actively about reputation on a daily basis.
Google expresses some thoughts on reputation.
- Very Positive Reputation – “very positive reputation is often based on prestigious awards or recommendations from known experts or professional societies on the topic of the website.” 
- Negative Reputation – “Most businesses have some negative reviews, especially for customer service. Try to find as many reviews and ratings as possible and read the details of negative reviews and low ratings before inferring that the business has a negative reputation.” 
So, your task for 2016: Put a reputation blueprint together for your company.
- How do you collect or highlight compliments?
- How do you push down poor comments?
- How do you fight false comments?
- Have you claimed your pages in social media and review sites?
- Have you won awards?
- Do you make news?
Why so many references? I’m building authority and trust by giving credit to my sources. E-A-T or die.
1. Content Marketing IS Traditional Marketing. RedFusion. Burgess, Jon. Sept. 18, 2015.
2. What is Google RankBrain And Why Does It Matter. Forbes. DeMers, Jayson. Nov. 14, 2015
3. Google Self-Driving Car Project. Retrieved Dec. 19, 2015
4. Mobile Ins’t Killing the Desktop. The Wall Street Journal. Marshall, Jack. May, 26 2015
5. Google Localizing Desktop Search Based On Your Phone’s Location History. Search Engine Roundtable. Schwartz, Barry. Dec. 19, 2015.
6. Google. Retrieved Dec. 19, 2015
7. Accelerated Mobile Pages Project. Retrieved Dec. 19, 2015
8. Why Blog? The Benefits of Blogging for Business and Marketing. HubSpot. Eridon, Corey. Sept. 30, 2015
9. Crashing your SEO is More Common than Winning at SEO. RedFusion. Burgess, Jon. Aug. 27, 2015
10. It is Smart to Add Sales and Marketing Together, It Equals Smarketing. RedFusion. Foster, Amber. June 25, 2015
11. Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. Google. Nov. 12, 2015
12. Page 20, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
13. Page 21, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
14. Page 27, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
15. Page 35, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
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